What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)? How Do I Support Someone I Love With BED?

Unlike its other counterparts, Anorexia and Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder isn’t as widely known. Nevertheless, it still affects men and women just as much, if not more, as either of the other eating disorders, it is classed as a mental health disorder and requires treatment in much the same way as the other two. When people think of binge eating they immediately think of a very overweight individual but that isn’t necessarily the case. I’ve met many men and women who look and appear to be with in their normal weight range and still have BED. They are plagued by the same issues as someone with Bulimia and Anorexia and feel at a complete loss of control over their lives, although, they may seem to the outside world as if they have great control and are very successful in other ways, inside they lack self-esteem/self-confidence, feel like frauds, and wait to be “found out” and judged for who they really are – Failures in their own eyes, worthless. A person affected by binge eating disorder may find themselves trapped in a cycle of dieting, binging, self-recrimination and self-loathing. They can feel particularly isolated which can contribute to the prolonging of their experience. So what is BED?What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Symptoms Of BED

Behaviours may include
•    Out-of-control eating.
•    Eating more than the body needs.
•    Eating much more quickly than usual.
•    Eating until uncomfortably full.
•    Eating large amounts of food, even when not hungry.
•    Eating alone ( due to embarrassment)

Emotional and psychological symptoms may include
•    Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
•    Feelings of guilt and shame.
•    Depression.
•    Low self-esteem.
•    Dissatisfaction with body image.
•    Feeling out of control.
•    Anxiety.

Physical symptoms may include
•    Significant weight gain (not always)
•    Digestive problems.
•    Joint and muscular pain.
•    Breathlessness.
•    Poor skin condition.

Thes above symptoms are not a conclusive list. A proper diagnosis is required by your GP and/or psychiatrist.

Health consequences may include

  • Digestive problems such as bloating, stomach cramps, constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Malnutrition  (high in fats and sugary food consumed, but lacking in vitamins in minerals)
  • Weight gain can have the following related health consequences: (only  a few issues mentioned)
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol levels
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Gallbladder disease

Most physical symptoms can be reversed with weight loss and normalisation of a balanced diet and eating habits. How Do I Support Someone I Love With BED

Getting Help

People often try to control Binge Eating Disorder on their own, and failure can lead to feeling demoralised and depressed. Further episodes, and consequent feelings of social isolation missing work, school, etc, will begin a cycle of binge eating, feeling down, try again, fail, binge eating.

People who experience BED will need the help and support of their GP and therapist.

  • Your first port of call will be your General Practitioner. The GP will look at the physical effects of binge eating and will make a referral to a psychiatrist, dietician/nutritionist and to a psychologist or a therapist.
  • Individual psychotherapy and family therapy are useful in addressing the psychological and emotional issues that may be underlying the disorder.
  • Dietary/nutritional advice will aid with eating better foods, lose any weight required etc.

For change to occur and to be lasting, a recovery approach which tackles both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder will be required.


Remember recovery is possible there is no need to feel ashamed or frightened, your GP and therapist will help you. The fear you may be feeling is normal, but it is isolating you and hindering you getting better. Please reach out for help today.

Support groups can be very useful in reducing feelings of isolation and in providing encouragement,  Overeaters Anonymous is one such group.

To Family and Friends

  • Recovery can only begin when a person is ready to change.
  • Identifying and breaking the cycle of dieting and binge eating is an important part of this process.
  • Change can be made easier for a person if those around them inform themselves about binge eating disorder and about how they can offer support and show understanding.
  • Most people will experience some periods of relapse and these need to be recognised as part of recovery and not as a failure. Learning to cope with relapse can actually increase the chances of long term recovery.
  • Treatment will vary according to the individual and the time needed for recovery will also vary according to each individual.
  • Counselling: Individuals need psychotherapy to address the psychological problems relating to the personal effectiveness and interpersonal problems that may be underlying the disorder.
  • Family therapy is also important for the same reasons. Any illness or disability affects entire families. Those left to act as carer need support also.
  • Nutritional counselling is also important to increase a person’s understanding of how their diet and eating patterns are affecting them physically, mentally and socially.
  • Some people may require hospitalisation. It can be difficult for an individual to admit how bad their eating disorder has become and the seriousness of their illness.
  • Recovery can be very frightening and resistance to treatment is normal so this may have an effect of delaying treatment. This can, in turn, lead to increased distress for careers, parents and family members.
  • Carers, parents and family members should seek information and support for themselves to increase their understanding of the disorder and their ability to help.

Breaking The Cycle is a self-help booklet produced by Bodywhys Get your free copy here

Other Help




We offer support to individuals and parents of children with eating disorders if you would like to make an appointment please call 089 4373641 today.

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